Friday, June 17, 2011


"Follow the Road", oil,  by Carol Marine
Driving to do some shopping yesterday, I kept noticing the faded dividing lines on the road, and began wondering whether the lines of some of my classroom lessons this year were faded and hard to follow. I guess I usually take for granted these useful lines that lead me along the roads I travel, and I may occasionally be just as lackadaisical about setting out obvious routes and itineraries for my students to track. When I drive somewhere, I always instinctively trust the lines, signs, and markings along the roads, and my students should have a similar confidence in the precision and clarity of my lessons. I started wondering this morning what would happen if there were no dividing lines, road signs, traffic lights, or laws of the road, and, correspondingly, no clear signs whatsoever to help my students steer their way through a lesson. Obviously, chaos would hold sway in both instances – cars careening around in confusion, and students stumbling indiscriminately toward a finish line far off in the fog. For sure, there might be a cheerful feeling of looseness and liberty -- both cars and kids would feel free to go where they wish -- but the lack of order would make getting anywhere almost impossible. My job as an English teacher is not to mollify the students by letting them loose to go where they wish, but to help them reach specific destinations – and the best way to do that is to set out clear signs, markers, lights, and dividing lines. They can’t always go where they wish in my class, but they can, I hope, sometimes feel the freedom that comes from following clearly marked roads. When I drive somewhere, I can usually relax a little as I let the road lead me on, and I’d like the same sense of leisure and repose to be accessible to my students as they follow the sometimes complex but crystal clear roads of my lesson.

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